The Places You Will Go.

Next it’s onto Ngala.

For 13 posts last year I wrote about places beginning with the letters A – M which I have been fortunate to visit. For the next 13 posts I will continue with the letters N -Z. The first is Ngala. A game reserve which boarders the Kruger National Park in South Africa.

“It’s about a six hour drive from Johannesburg,” my daughter said. I thought EASY! For decades we had driven longer distances to visit family, so I thought, this is just like a trip to Rocky! WRONG!

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The hire cars are in the parking lot under the gazebo shelters.

It started with the hire car, a Nissan X Trail, which we picked up from the Johannesburg Park train station. When booked on line several months before, it stated that the car came with a GPS. As we were doing the paper work in the office, I asked about the GPS, and yes, the car had a GPS. However, when we went to the car, loaded up and looked for the GPS to enter our travel route, the GPS just would not work. We backtracked to the office, a young lady came out to the car to rectify the problem but still no joy. Finally, we were advised that the car had a GPS but that it was not actually connected and if we wanted one that would be an extra 99Rand per day. By this time hubby was a bit over it all and I said it would be OK as we could use Google Maps on my phone. We had some directions of how to get out of Jo’burg and onto the highway, so off we set. We had lost over an hour of travel time.

It wasn’t too bad. We missed a turn because we were in the wrong lane and had to double back through the centre of Jo’burg, a rather nerve wracking experience, to get into the correct lane, and then we were off. All good until I mixed up a N road with a M road and ended up on the wrong road. With my trusty Google maps I was able to find our way across to the highway but to do this we had to travel through a huge shanty town. As far as the eye could see on both sides of the road were tin shacks. This was totally confronting and I could not have believed it if I had not actually seen it. I figured that God must have wanted us to see this. But, still some more time lost.

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Once of the highway the trip was pretty good. The directions were easy to follow and we travelled from one town to the next uneventfully. We crossed the magnificent Drakensberg Ranges, simply spectacular natural beauty, stopping at Dullstroom for a break and some lunch. That was the good part of the trip. After Dullstroom the road worsened, became narrow and was pocked with many deep potholes which slowed the travel quite significantly.

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We arrived at the Timbavati Control Gate into the Kruger a little after 5.00pm really just sneaking in before the gates closed at 5.30pm. From here it is about another 45kms to the Ngala Lodge.

“Just be careful when you get in the gate, mum. Watch for elephants, they can just come out of the bush and onto the road. You don’t want to run into one.” By this time, my phone had gone flat, I had lost directions and contact, it was getting dark and we were in totally unknown territory. The road was a narrow, dirt, deeply corrogated track and we were totally surrounded by deepening darkness and the bush. To put it mildly, I was a little anxious and those elephants! Didn’t want to come across one in the dark!

As we progressed along the undulating road, off in the distance at the top of some ridges, we would catch the glimpse of lights but then they would disappear. We had no idea what it was until they continued to approach and we discovered it was our daughter with a ranger who had come out to meet us. She jumped into our vehicle and guided us back to the lodge, and my goodness, were we happy to arrive there!

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Our room.

Our five days at &Beyond’s Ngala Game Reserve was a truly magnificent experience. On the early morning and afternoon game drives we sighted wonderful bird life, the African Big Five and a host of other African animals in their natural habitat. On that first game drive with the sun just coming up and the fresh morning breeze stimulating all senses, we traversed the sandy tracks that weave across the landscape; the Kruger bush just rolling on and on as far as the eye can see in every direction. I remarked to my daughter, “I get it. I understand why you love this so much. In just one game drive I get how the bush gets under your skin.”

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On our final day we went on the morning game drive, had breakfast, checked out and began the drive back to Johannesburg. It was a much easier drive. We drove back to the Timbavati Control Gate in daylight, which made that part of the trip quite pleasant and we saw many more animals as we departed. We had a better map and we had travelled the road before making it not totally unknown. We arrived in Johannesburg at the end of day peak hour traffic but negotiated our way through the city without incident. We made one wrong turn just several hundred meters from our place of accommodation but rectified that easily.

David, our BnB host, was delighted to have us safely return. Our thanks to our South African son in law 1st edition,(we now have 2) who was our very capable ranger and our daughter, 2IC Lodge manager who organised for us to visit Ngala. It was our first experience in the African bush and we were overwhelmed by the magnificence, my words here cannot do it justice. Simply, it was awesome.

For more images go to this site:

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2 replies to “The Places You Will Go.

  1. We were also victims to the confident declaration that “It’s an easy five hour drive”!!!! After our overnight flight, it seemed like a never-ending journey and at one point, as we precariously ascended and descended a huge mountain range that we were NOT expecting, I vowed never to trust my younger sister on these matters ever again.


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